Courts & Crime

Australian fugitive created new life in rural S.C.

For 16 years, an Australian woman lived and worked in Bamberg without her husband or co-workers knowing she was a fugitive from justice in her home country.

Janette Irene Harris, 60, even became a U.S. citizen.

However, federal authorities discovered her identity after receiving an anonymous tip in 2008. After more than a year of tracking Harris, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents captured her in Bamberg.

And this week, a federal judge stripped Harris of her U.S. citizenship and ordered her to be deported to Australia, where she is wanted on fraud charges.

It's the first case in South Carolina in which a person has been convicted of fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship, said Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Charlotte.

Harris became a U.S. citizen on March 23, 2004, in Atlanta.

Typically, people who are illegally in the United States will use a fake identity or a fake marriage to obtain a green card, said Kevin McDonald, acting U.S. attorney for South Carolina. It's rare for someone to go so far as to obtain citizenship, he said.

Harris, whose real name is Ann Marcia Casey, is being held at the Mecklenberg County Jail in Charlotte. The jail has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to hold people who are illegally in the United States.

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